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Donald MacKelvie

Donald MacKelvie, born in 1887, was a grocer as well as a
farmer. He was a farmer in a small way, cultivating seven acres of land near Lamlash, Island of Arran, Scotland, but by the early 1900s he was developing new marketable varieties of potato. MacKelvie carried out his initial work in a small hut, using thousands of 4-inch pots, and on his own land and that of the Baird family, who were farmers at nearby Machrie.

One of MacKelvie's major achievements was the production of potatoes that were resistant to wart disease, a disease that in the early 1900s was recognised as endemic in areas of the English Midlands, one of Britain's main potato-growing regions. Arran Victory, bred by MacKelvie in 1912, was one of his early successes. A late maincrop variety, slow to emerge but with rapid growth thereafter, it has round, purple tubers. Its white flesh and dry, mealy texture was very popular until public demand for less colourful tubers made it uneconomical for commercial production.

MacKelvie was developing new cultivars both for the local early-potato growers in Bute, Ayrshire and Dumfries and for the wider seed-potato market. Arran Pilot (1930), along with Epicure, formed the main cultivar in Scotland's southwest early-potato growing areas and it was able to hold its prime place for over 30 years.

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